Regreening Rotterdam with urban agroforestry

Creating an edible garden network throughout the city.

Coöperatie Ondergrond is building sustainable, edible, multifunctional green landscapes, designed and managed according to food forest principles. We do this both in and around the city as well as in the countryside. Our aim is to strengthen the bond between city and country, consumer and producer, and between people and nature. By creating food forest gardens and edible green spaces within the city, the food forest story is told through the experience of seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting.

In partnership with SKAR, the Ondergrond team is transforming 6 inner-city locations into thriving edible gardens. Together, these locations form a network of food forests and gardens throughout Rotterdam. The edible gardens combine food production with nature, offer green oases within the city, provide air purification and carbon storage, cycle water runoff to relieve the city's sewage and create biodiversity stepping stones across Rotterdam for urban creatures and critters. We believe this offers practical and sustainable inner-city regreening.

  • A food forest garden is designed with 7 layers: canopy, understory, shrub, herbaceous, root crop, ground crop, vines
  • By selecting the right species, a food forest becomes a self-sustaining, long-term and resilient food production system

What we have achieved so far

  • We are employing a team of gardeners to pull up the concrete tiles and reuse them to create an area for herbaceous plants and to make insect hotels.
  • The team is currently planting a range of tree and shrub species.
  • We are bringing compost and wood chips to the locations
  • To kick start the process of natural succession, we sow a variety of seeds - clover, lupine, etc. - into the soil.
  • Overtime as the edible gardens at each location evolves, we will continue to add different layers.

Role of business

  • We work with Rotterdam restaurants to provide a changing assortment of fresh fruit and edible plants throughout the year.
  • We provide employment for city gardeners
  • We offer a broad education programme to spread the experience of food forests and to train others in best practices.

Four Returns

From a 4 returns holistic perspective, what could be potential outcomes at a landscape level in 20 years?

This Landscape has the potential to turn the losses from degradation into 4 Returns. The ENABLE team identified potential 4 return outcomes at a landscape level over period of 15 to 20 years.


Return of inspiration

  • Rotterdam residents are proud to harvest edible goods from within the city, all year round
  • Dilapidated and abandoned inner-city spaces are a thing of the past

Return of Social Capital

  • Employment opportunities are created by converting inner-city locations into edible gardens
  • Consumers have greater connection to food production
  • There are "ecosystem gardeners" who appreciate the interconnectedness of food production and biodiversity

Return of Natural Capital

  • Each food forest garden provides a safe haven for urban biodiversity
  • The food forest locations throughout the city act as biodiversity stepping stones
  • Greening the city means air purification, CO2 storage and lower city temperatures

Return of Financial Capital

  • There is an ingrained industry of inner-city food production which provides restaurants and city residents alike
  • The city's sewer network is relieved from the excess rainwater runoff from the tiled school yards
  • Educational programmes and training take place at the Rotterdam Edible Garden Academy

3 Zones

Natural zone

  • The trees, shrubs and plants provide safe-haven for biodiversity
  • The food forest garden systems captures CO2, cycles water and restores soil fertility
  • Each edible garden is a biodiversity stepping stone throughout the city

Combined zone

  • The production of edible goods

Economic zone

  • Various ventures and entrepreneurs selling food forest products
  • The foundation of a food forest economy within Rotterdam

More about the landscape


Get in touch

Name: Coöperatie Ondergrond

Address: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Contact Person: Max de Corte